The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> We all live in a digital world. We all need it to be open and safe. We all want to trust ‑‑
>> And to be trusted.
>> We all despise control.
>> And desire freedom.
>> We are all united.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, everyone, wherever you are. We have a few colleagues here joining us live from Poland, and please those that are here and want to join us around the table, feel free to do so. This is a UNESCO Open Forum so we do welcome your participation, questions, answers, comments. We also have very interesting speakers and participants joining us online from different parts of the world. My name is Guilherme Canela, I'm the Chief of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalist Section in UNESCO in Paris and it's my pleasure to moderate this session today. This Open Forum as you probably saw in joining us, it is about the transparency of the Internet companies, since the World Press Freedom Day this year, UNESCO is stimulating a global debate about the transparency of the Internet companies, and obviously we'll hear more about that. And transparency is what we political scientists call omnibus concepts. Everyone wants to get on board; although, not necessarily that we all have the same impressions of what we are talking about and what or why we want to get into that bus.
So, this is part of our discussion today, of what exactly we mean by transparency, why it is important to protect and promote freedom of expression online and other human rights.
So, we will have a very interesting group of speakers that will kick off the debate, but as I said, this is an open forum so for those joining us either online or here in Poland, please do participate. We have one hour for this discussion, but it's my pleasure to introduce who is going to open this session, our Assistant Director General for Communication and Information Mr. Tawfik Jelassi and with him we've been discussing the issue of transparencies, and he took this post six months ago in UNESCO, so Mr. Jelassi, you have the floor.
>> TAWFIK JELASSI: Thank you very much, Guilherme. Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, thank you for joining our Open Forum this afternoon, and sharing with us your views, your experiences, your opinions regarding such an important matter as how can we enhance the transparency of Internet companies.
Obviously, these companies have taken or have played a prominent role since the start of the pandemic. We allowed the new voices to be heard, they allowed knowledge to be shared, they even allowed social movements to be mobilized. We recognize that. But at the same time, we have seen increasing widespread of misinformation, disinformation, speech of hate, speech of violence, radicalism, extremism, we all know about that. The key question today is how could we possibly respond to these challenges, and what actions could we think of?
Obviously, we know of a couple of solutions that go to this issue. One is a lase fare approach and although that has taken place in some parts of the world, we cannot afford all as individuals and societies to let what I mentioned earlier, this harmful content continues to spread at the speed of light, so a lase fare attitude is less and less valuable in our view.
A second approach could be to regulate online content, but you know the risk there. The risk there is overregulation which, of course, will restrict the freedom of expression and will restrict, obviously, the free sharing of content and therefore could limit access to human rights. The key question is then is there a third possible option or way forward? We think at UNESCO that we should demand a greater transparency on the part of Internet companies because transparency would allow us to better understand the challenges I mentioned before and hopefully develop evidence‑based policies. This is, I think, the central topic for us this afternoon.
Of course, when you talk about transparency, the question is transparency over what? How much transparency is needed or desirable? Transparency to whom? And transparency for what type of expected outcomes? Again, I'm sure that the distinguished speakers and panelists this afternoon will shed some light on these questions.
A couple of weeks ago at the UNESCO 41st General Conference, our 193 Member States have adopted the principles of the Windhoek + 30 Declaration which is for us an important milestone going forward, and this Windhoek + 30 Declaration adopted last in Amoeba when we celebrated world day and transparency of the companies is one of the pillars in the Windhoek + 30 Declaration in order to achieve what we call information as a public good. I can therefore say that we do have clear mandates from our 193 Member States and we at UNESCO and broader field to address this issue of transparency.
We all recognize that the issue of transparency and the role of Internet companies cut across virtually all of our activities, our work to counter hate speech, our work to combat misinformation and disinformation, our work to support media viability, as well as our work to promote media and information literacy. Obviously, we would like to further promote transparency and accountability of the Internet companies so the companies can uphold and protect the freedom of expression, including when hate speech is used to attack journalists, media professionals, and further field attack human rights defenders.
We want these Internet companies to apply international standards on legality, proportionality, legitimate purpose when they moderate online content and we want to ensure that the algorithms they use do not fuel hatred or falsehoods. We believe that addressing this important issue of transparency necessary at a times a dialogue in a truly multistakeholder approach, a dialogue that involves a range of actors from public sector to private sector, to Civil Society, to Internet companies, and digital content providers?
Earlier this year, UNESCO launched an Issue Brief entitled "letting the sunshine in transparency and accountability in the digital age." This issue brief presents 26 high‑level principles for enhancing the transparency of Internet companies. We are delighted the author of this issue brief will present to us these key principles to enhance the transparency of Internet companies. Obviously, these principles cut across issues related not only to content and process but also the issues of due diligence, empowerment, commercial dimensions, personal data gathering, and use, as well as data access. We have embarked on a range of multistakeholder consultations and interagency dialogues, and we'll continue this work and obviously this event this afternoon, this Open Forum is very much an opportunity for us to step up our consultations. Let me conclude by saying that we welcome very much the IGF community to provide us feedback on the principles of transparency of Internet companies and we hope that we could harness the communicative knowledge and experience presented in the room and online. Numerous people are connected online during this Open Forum and we would like to harness the collective intelligence, the collective set of experiences and knowledge in order to identify how these principles on transparency could be translated into an operational framework that can guide the work of Internet companies, but also can guide policymakers and regulators across the world. I wish you all a fruitful exchange and thank you for your kind attention.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you, Mr. Jelassi for these opening remarks, but also for contextualizing this work under the UNESCO perspective. Indeed during the World Press Freedom Day this year we had an initial discussion about those principles that were later on included in the Windhoek + 30 Declaration and if you remember during the World Press Freedom Day this year we awarded Maria, the World Press Freedom Prize and in the opening remarks during the World Press Freedom Day, she already underlined the importance of transparency for combating online violence against journalists, particularly women journalists, an issue that she has been reinforcing since then and as we all know coincidentally this Friday she's receiving the noble peace prize for the work she's done in this area and so we do think that those different areas have very much connected with the overall UNESCO work in this field.
I also want to do some housekeeping announcements. Please if you are tweeting about this Open Forum use the hashtags IGF 2021, of Open Forum 55, that is this open forum and then also the hashtag of UNESCO.
We also have my colleagues Rachel Pollock and Annina Claesson, and Rachel is the online moderator, so she's taking the questions and interacting in the chat. And Annina Claesson is the Reporter for this session and so now it's my pleasure to introduce Andrew Puddephatt as Mr. Jelassi already mentioned, who is an independent expert working with UNESCO for a long time, actually even helping UNESCO and other a standard‑setting documents like the Development Indicators in the past, and Andrew was and is very much involved with this UNESCO global effort to discuss the transparency of the Internet companies. He is the author of this issue brief "letting the sunshine in: Transparency and accountability in the digital age" and this is a ‑‑ this title of "letting the sunshine in" is a dialogue with a famous phrase of U.S. Supreme Court justice Louise with more than 100 years ago who said sunshine is the best disinfectant. So, Andrew, what do we need sunshine here? Over to you.
>> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT: Thanks very much, Guilherme. I thank the IDG for a very important context‑setting introduction, which I think set out very clear why UNESCO believes transparency of Internet companies and the global communication's companies is such a critical issue in the modern world, and why we're very fearful of a purely laissez‑faire approach or of regulation that could damage free expression and the ability of people to communicate freely in an open environment. Those are the two dangers that we need to steer between. I think the importance of transparency for UNESCO is three aspects. It's about accountability. These are powerful global communication companies that place a critical force in how we communicate with each other across the world, so accountability is important but making better use of technology and the platforming is also important, so for that we need transparency. Thirdly, it's about building trust. If we're going to utilize these platforms to communicate good information and genuinely enjoy free speech and open debate, and deal with the problems of hatred and disinformation, we need to have trust in those platforms and how they're managing those often very complex and challenging issues.
What's distinct about UNESCO's approach? Around the moment about 70 or more major communication companies do produce transparency reports, they're often very detailed, often a little bit inaccessible, and they often attract very little press or media attention, so they're not ‑‑ although those reports exist, they don't necessarily help to create the public debate and public awareness that we're looking for.
In addition, there are around 30 pieces of legislation in different parts of the world that either prescribe transparency or have transparency of some aspect of a broader regulatory framework. So, UNESCO's contribution is really to say, well look, in the middle of this, companies are supposed to navigate a whole series of very, very different expectations and very, very different demands. If we have a regulatory environment passed by 192 countries, all requiring different things of companies in different forms, it's going to be extremely challenging, not even just ‑‑ not just for the larger companies, but particularly for the small and medium‑size enterprises and the new entrants so important to a technological development of many developing countries, so we need a framework that is simple, clear, accessible, and coherent and can operate anywhere across the globe.
That's the point of the UNESCO principles. We've taken after quite detailed discussion with the companies in the first instance, and with independent experts and Civil Society, we drew up 26 high‑level principles which are endorsed in the Windhoek + 30 Declaration and then had more discussion with experts and companies about those high‑level principles because one of the problems we have in our world is not a shortage of high‑level principles, because there are many, many high‑level principles operating in many, many environments, but what we have a shortage is an analysis of how to apply those principles in a practical sense by a private company operating with all the commercial companies that it operates and so, we went through that with those companies and come up with a set of an understanding of how those principles should apply and then a set of indicators and means of verification that will enable us to assess how those companies are complying with those principles. Now, any cover, the principles although there are 26, they cover a range of areas. They include how companies manage content in general, and in particular what are the suite of measures that they can deploy to deal with problematic content. How one can raise issues about content if you're a member of the public, how you would raise a concern about a piece of your content being taken down or removed, for example. That seems to be an important piece of information. We're very interested in the use of algorithms, and algorithms are used widely by companies, sometimes for minor tweaks, but sometimes for major decision‑making purposes, particularly during lockdown and particularly in dealing with problematic content.
So, we need to have greater transparency about how those algorithms operate and what kind of standards are built into the design and coding to ensure compliance as the ADG said, with international human rights norms? The principles also cover the collection and utilization of personal data and issues such as advertising and how advertising is managed on the site, but particularly political advertising which has been one of the major sources of concern among policymakers around the world in recent years.
Obviously, what happens to people's data and how it's used and how people access the data that's collected on them or correct data they believe to be inadequate is also an important issue. And, finally, the ‑‑ there are principles that deal with the beneficial ownership and if you like, commercial imperatives that shape a company, because companies ultimately are driven by many, many imperatives and driven by the need to compete in the market, the desire to develop new products, the desire to attract new investment, and often in the investor call, the acquisition of users is one of the main preoccupations of investors, so balancing all of that with human rights concerns is a critically important issue, and we need to be able to understand those kinds of issues and how companies do make those very complex decisions.
So I've just said we now have the principles, and we've been in consultation with companies about the application of those principles, the ADG called an operational implication of them, and we'll shortly be in a position to publish a more detailed paper setting out the principles, some of the operational concerns that have arisen in the conversations, and a set of indicators and means of verification that will enable us to provide a comprehensive framework that won't just be of value to the companies them severs, we believe it will, because it will be a simple rubric for them to follow, and it will also be a very necessary consideration for any regulators or any policymakers who are considering regulation because badly informed policy will produce badly applied regulation.
And unless we have a good understanding and a proper understanding of how these communications companies work, we won't get good effective regulation, which on the one hand may deal with harmful and problematic content, but will not do so at the expense of genuine opinion and genuine exchange of information and speech, which is something of a value that UNESCO holds very, very dear and existence to uphold. That's the position now and we obviously welcome anyone to look at those principles, send us your comments, feed into any of the ongoing conversations which will continue over the next months, but at the moment we feel very could have dent that we've got a good, coherent, solid framework to operate with. Thank you, Guilherme. Thanks, everyone for listening.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you, Andrew. I'm sure we'll have more questions for you, and I also think my colleagues Rachel and Annina probably already posted in the chat of this conversation the link to this document, which is available in all the UN official languages plus Portuguese, so feel free to look into it in your own language and send us the comments. Now I have an impressive lineup of speakers from different multistakeholder groups to offer brief comments on the discussion and then we can also open and should open for a discussion with people here in Poland and online.
Let me start with Daniele Kleiner from the policy division of Facebook in Latin America, and Daniele, as you probably know, your Vice President Nick Klag was actually in the UNESCO opening debate about these last May during the World Press Freedom Day and being interviewed by Dave Decae and he underlined the importance of the transparency for the companies as well, so now that these principles are published and as Andrew said, many of the companies including Facebook meta work consulted about that, could you tell us about your takes, your key takeaways of these transparency discussions and high‑level principles? Over to you and welcome.
>> DANIELE KLEINER FONTES: Thank you so much. I want to quickly introduce myself. I'm Daniele and work on safety team for Latin American region and Brasilia. I'm based in San Palo where I work usually not from home like we are in the pandemic, and so right now I appreciate you having me virtually.
I want to start thanking you very much for the opportunity and privilege to contribute to this important debate. At Meta, transparency is a core value and we have been supporting conversations with different stakeholders such as UNESCO for new regulatory frameworks including in the content space and increasing transparency. Our Vice President Nick Klag has been vocal and publicly supporting this initiative as part of our efforts to push this agenda.
Regarding the 26 principles, we did analyze them against our current practice, and we have been actively collaborating to this discussion with UNESCO, and what we've found is that the majority of them were already covered by our current practices, but still we have room to improve, but we're taking notice that we are ‑‑ we have been able to over the years implement a lot of these principles.
And because of time, I just want to highlight some of the steps that Meta is taking to increase accountability and transparency. For instance, quarterly, Meta publishes a transparency report where the company shares metrics on the progress in preventing action on content that violates our policies. In this report, we provide data such as the prevalence of a violating content on Facebook and Instagram, the number of mistakes that we corrected, among other data.
The report is intended to exactly to shed light on the processes in enforcing our platform policies or what we call our community standards. To validate that our metrics are measured and reported correctly, we have been implementing currently an external audit. The company continues to work to expand the metrics shared to better inform society.
Another example that I wanted to highlight is that in March of this year, and this is a big step, Meta has announced a company commitment to human rights, launching a corporate human rights policy. This new policy sets out the human rights standards we will strive to respect as defined in international law, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights 6789 it sets out how we will apply these standards to our apps and products and policies, program, and overall approach to our business. We will report our most critical human rights issues, such for instance risks to freedom of expression, to our Board of Directors.
And we have publicly committed to release a public report annually on how we are addressing human rights concerns stemming from our products, policies, business practices, and something that now days very few companies do. And one last example of an important step towards transparency and accountability has been the creation of the oversight board to help address some of the most significant and difficult content moderation challenges on Facebook and Instagram.
The Board makes independent decisions that have helped to hold the company accountable for upholding fundamental values of notice, fairness, and due process in the development and enforcement of our content policies 6789.
One of the Board's core principles transparency, decision‑making, and the board published the decisions about the Facebook and Instagram policy development. By highlighting some of the gaps and areas of conflict in our policy and enforcement processes, the Board has pushed the company to reassess how to make policies more transparent and involvement of the roles more equitable.
We're keen to continue to contribute to UNESCO guiding principles and transparency and especially collaborating particularly on the contribution of the guidelines to operationalize and impact indicators that have been developed.
Another important aspect I wanted to point out for this discussion today, are the enormous challenges both in scale and complexity for a global community, and to the industry, in the case of Meta with 2.8 billion daily users and billion pieces of content, the scale is unprecedented. Posing an enormous chance for human and automated content moderation. We know we have a huge responsibility to balance freedom of expression with efforts to prevent content accurately to harm, violence, discrimination, and other harms, and we have been taking these responsibilities very seriously from updating our community standards, these global set of rules that define what users can and cannot do over the platforms of Meta and to keep up with the latest trends, to invest heavily in technology that hems us more quickly detect harmful content on the platforms, as well as human resources to help keep our community safe.
We are on track to spend over 5 billion dollars on safety and security this year alone, and we have 40,000 people working on these issues at the company, including 15,000 people who review all the content reports in more than 70 languages, working in more than 20 locations all across the world to support our community.
We know we have a long way to go in our journey. We believe so far we're taking the necessary steps to get there, and most importantly, the company will continue to be open for a rich and transparent dialogue on how we can improve our processes as well as having a multistakeholder discussion on a new regulatory framework that would enable for more transparency. And with that I close my opening remarks, and I thank you very much for having me here.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you, Daniele. Thank you for the contributions of Facebook Meta in the discussion and dialogue with UNESCO. I'm sure many of the participants will have questions for you, considering the different aspects that you have underlined, but let's go first with the other speakers for their initial kicking off remarks, so now my pleasure to a2340U7BS the presence of Akriti Bopanna, and Akriti you work with ISOC and on many occasions, you have outlined the Internet transparency and so please your takeaway and remarks on this debate and discussion. Over to you.
>> AKRITI BOPANNA: Hi, everybody. I'm Akriti and work as policy and Internet manager at Internet Society and based in India, and I think as you mentioned we've been conducting a lot of efforts to increase transparency in the space. One of the core questions that I was asked to speak about today was how central is the value of transparency in Internet governance, and I've been doing this for a couple of years, so I think the multistakeholder nature of the Internet is really what makes it even more important, the aspect of transparency, because at the very beginning it equalizes access to information, and all kinds of stakeholders across the world, not all of them have equal part, equal opportunity to access information and the more transparent that the space is, the more equal such kind of participation in the space can be 6789 it minimalizes power dynamics between various stakeholders, whether private sector and Civil Society, whether it's global north and Global South and sometimes the some has more information available by virtue of the networks and access to key individuals which may not be as available to, you know, organizations in the Global South.
Transparency democratizes the space by helping end users know what's really happening in governance organizations, like at IGF fora alike, IGF for example, and that kind of information can really contribute to users feeling empowered in the way and how they can contribute to the conversation and make sure that not just people from organizations are, you know, are dominating the debate, but end users also have a chance to contribute.
Of course, governments are better aware if more transparency that there is and what kind of regulations should be enforced, what kind of regulations should be formulated. And I think it also helps private companies like Meta have the opportunity to spread awareness about the internal policymaking, and sometimes a lack of that can cause reputational damage but awareness really helps in understanding what the policies are 6789.
Andrew in his opening remarks, mentioned how difficult it is to operationalize principles and I'm sure Daniele agrees that we all have a lot of ideas about the what the ideals of the Internet are, how it should be global, open, secure, trustworthy, but those ideas are very often difficult to translate into policies and frameworks. So at ISOC we try to do that and translate into an assessment impact toolkit and what we look at is essentially how any policy or regulation related to the digital space affects the infrastructure of the Internet, and transparency is a very core component of that and falls into a lot of our ideas about how important it is when we look at how collaborative government institutions are and how standard‑setting organizations formulate policies, so the more transparent they are, the more stakeholders can participate in that. It plays a very essential role into how reliable the Internet can be. For example, if you have more transparency about Internet shutdowns, for example, you know what to expect, you know how the Internet infrastructure around you is enhanced, how much you can participate, and how much you can rely on that for any kind of work that you're carrying out.
I think at the end of the day, most importantly, transparency strengthens accountability. It's very difficult for organizations to be accountable to users, to government, to each other, to all kinds of stakeholders, unless we're aware of what kind of policies are trying to be put into place to begin with, so transparency really strengthens the accountability, and at ISOC we're trying to look at all the work that we're doing through these lenses, so any regulation that we analyze is then looked at from a transparency point of view from an infrastructure point of view, and we don't get into more debates about ‑‑ about anything of what can be very political often, and of course in our conversations with our chapters, with our community members, we publish an action plan, impact reports, we do policy development processes to make sure that all stakeholders have an avenue to contribute their opinion and there are positions on various ways and policies that come up. There are quite a few things that we try to do with our transparency, and with our transparency efforts, and I'm happy to talk about it more in the Q&A later. Thank you for the opportunity to have this conversation.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you, Akriti, and indeed you underlined a very relevant point about the relevance of the importance of transparency in reducing asymmetries of information. During the launching of our World Trends Report and Free come of Expression and Media Development when the Windhoek + 30 Declaration endorsed by Member States a few weeks ago at Mr. Jelassi mentioned we had a keynote speaker Joseph that was aligning the very same important, the importance of transparency, the importance of fostering freedom of expression everywhere for reducing asymmetries of information which has crossed the border effects on democracy, on even on the development, et cetera. Thank you for that ‑‑ for those remarks and for that particular point.
Let me move to Avri Doria and as we know Avri participates in many IGFs and this discussion is not a new one for Avri and also not a new one for ICANN, and so maybe you can offer your views to us on this debate about transparency. Over to you. Thank you for being here on site.
>> AVRI DORIA: Thank you. Quite happy to be here on site 6789 yeah. Transparency, it's one of those things that I have never gone through these principles other than reading them as preparation for this as a reason for transparency, though I think it would be quite useful to do so as a check on, okay, you think you're being transparent, so let's now check.
But what we have found, and what I have found in most places is that there is really two main issues, and these are issues that, you know, we've played with in several organizations and certainly have been fundamental, you know, in ICANN is what is your basic attitude? Is everything secret except for the things that you make transparent? Which seems to be the general case in the world. Or is there a notion of default transparency with some things not transparent because there are privacy concerns, there is danger, you know, there are various security threats and whatever.
Now, several years ago, it was many years ago, you know, even before I got involved in the ICANN Board, the accountability and transparency review team of ICANN, which is essentially their bottom‑up oversight of a group of people from the community that make recommendations to the board about how to fix things, and in this case accountability and transparency, and sort of indicated that you've got to move to that "other" philosophy. And it's a move that is slow. It's a move that I think one person said, it's like a holy grail and not something that you just get, but you work toward it and you work toward it constantly. I think that transition has been made.
Now, there is the whole difficulty of when you're deciding what you can't let out. You still have to be careful that you don't go too far and you don't protect things that perhaps ought not be.
But then that creates yet another problem. So, for example, at ICANN, many of the supporting organizations and advisory groups have completely open meetings, and those meetings have transcripts often, and the amount of, in fact, one of the friends around the table here said, obfuscation by explosion of information. You get to the point where you've put out so much informing. So once you make that decision to be transparent, to be transparent by default, you also have to make an expenditure decision about how do I put this into a content management system, how do I put it in and make sure that it's tagged, to make sure that none of the private stuff gets in, to make sure that none of the stuff that could cause security risk gets in.
And ICANN is very much involved in both of those things, you know, new CMS, ITs being built, the tagging is being done, et cetera, because the two go together. The decision to be massively transparent, which I believe ICANN moves very much towards, and in fact it may be there, and having that available in a trackable manner is a big problem you have to commit to. You can't do one without the other. I don't know how that really bears on the kind of principles that are in here. I haven't ‑‑ I apologize, I haven't really done enough thinking in terms of weighing what we do or what other organizations I've worked in do and these principles. These principles sometimes are more for a profit‑oriented than a non‑profit, et cetera, but they look really interesting. But how they map to some technical organizations or nonprofits, you know, and other non‑profits that I worked in is something that I don't quite understand now. And do they, it's like the rules from the UN, you know, the corporate rules for human rights or the corporate indications, they don't always fit right. You know, I take one wishing someone would take it and write it for the NGO, for the non‑profit so that it made sense, so that ‑‑ and it's the same kind of when I read through here, sort of looking at it and said, okay, I can understand how to extrapolate it for NGO, but does it fit? Does it not really fit?
So those are the kind of questions that I still have in terms of the sort of regularization of principles. They look good, but I'm not quite sure how they fit an NGO yet, but default transparency ‑‑ transparency by default is a good idea. You know, a corporate on the other hand, has a lot more trouble with transparency by default because there is profit making and there are company secrets about profit making and such that are much more difficult to be totally transparent with. Whereas, for an NGO, there shouldn't be. You know, for a nonprofit, there shouldn't be, except for those things that are private, that are security risks, et cetera.
So, I guess I'll stop there but those are the thoughts that I sort of came in here with.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you. Thank you very much for also taking the principles toward your own making, although as Andrew has said and your pointed to it, the original idea for these 26 high‑level principles was to be applied towards the companies and not the other stakeholders, but obviously we want the other stakeholders to use these principles to enhance their accountability of the companies, but you said two things that are very relevant to this discussion and how we move from a culture of secrecy to a culture of transparency is not easy. It's easy to say but not easy to do.
But you also raised another very, very important point that is about records management policy, and I mean how you make these make sense, you know, so it's not easy at all. So, thank you so much for those remarks.
As some of you saw in the program, we also had originally Malavika scheduled to speak today during the Open forum but just sent a message and has a last‑minute emergency and we hope everything are is okay with her. So, we'll move now to Thomas Schneider who is working with the Swiss Regulator, and Thomas you saw Andrew speaking, and we actually got lots of inputs when we started, and we are continuing doing this work that the transparency component is really essential for reaching good regulation. I mean the idea of producing evidence‑based policymaking without transparency is just impossible, so from a regulator's perspective, why this story is relevant?
>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: Thank you, and hello, everybody. Just the Office of Communication which is the name of the thing that I work is part of a government ministry of a department in Switzerland, and we do have some regulatory functions for the media market, for the telecom markets, but not for content, for instance. So, we are not an independent regulator, but we have some elements. It may get clearer when you hear me speaking.
First of all, thank you for the initiative and thank you for setting up this discussion. I think there is a lot of valuable information and proposals in the document. At the same time, I do have some questions. For instance, the first question is when you talk about Internet companies, what do you actually mean? Do you mean, you know, there are so many different types of Internet companies. There are Cloud service providers, access providers, online platforms, social media, and so on and so forth. So, it would be good to specify.
If I look at the document, it's probably more geared towards those that deal with content, i.e., in particular social media. But then in the discussion, it's not really clear. Because some of them are vital and some of them almost have become existential factors for all of our economic and societal activities, but it's good to specify because they have different roles, they may have different responsibilities, and to the extent that they fulfill services or functions that are necessary, now days for the function for society, they may also deserve a special protection in some cases and it's not just about what they have to do but also what the government has to do to support and their actions to actually enable them to live up to their ‑‑ to keep their services up.
And so, of course, we do have the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses, and but I do work a lot for and with the Council of Europe, and in Europe under the framework with the Convention and human rights, states all have positive obligations to on the one hand, not to interfere with the rights of individuals or companies, but also to protect the rights of the people and therefore to make sure that companies behave in a certain way and not behave in a certain way, but also themselves. So, it's, yeah, but again this depends on the ‑‑ on which companies you are talking about.
And there is another point that I would like to raise. In addition to what Avri said because we had lots of fights when I was the Chair of the WCAG and about transparency in ICANN and overloading governmental people from small companies with thousands of pages isn't necessarily what transparency means, but I'm glad to hear that ICANN has started to work on it and is trying to find a solution. We hope we will live to the day when the solution is there for such a content management system.
>> AVRI DORIA: But now they do it too!
>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: We'll follow up on that privately. (Laughing). But also when it's about discussing the role of Internet companies or social media in these areas, when it comes to content moderation or tackling hate speech and so on, what the document refers, we should also be cautious not to task with roles they should not have, that should be in public institutions, be public administration, be it courts, and so this is something that also we should keep in mind so that, yeah, the framework that we build and we may have to elaborate around their activities when it comes to their role in the public sphere, in the public discussion, that we make sure that there is a dialogue about what is the role of a particular actor or not.
And with regard to the proposals in the book, if we look at what happens in Europe, and for instance we're not a member of the European Union in Switzerland, and we follow it and participate actively in the Council of Europe, and the different ways to create rules for transparency or to encourage transparency rules, you have a draft of legislation in the EU, the Digital Services Act, the Digital Market Act, you have the Draft AI Regulation which is important when it comes to transparency about algorithms, and the Council of Europe has issued in the last 20 years a number of relevant soft law about media ownership transparency, about governance transparency for media companies, about transparency about their philosophy, the ethical codes, the way they treat complaints or deal with hate speech, and it's nice to hear that Facebook and other companies are trying to improve the way they treat, let's say, harmful content and it's necessary to have some information about how this is done, and also trying to help them about what the problems are, whether they would actually benefit from clearer guidance from legislators to support a proper and coherent way of dealing with difficult content, and again also with not interfering with freedom of expression and information, which is something that they need support from the governments that help them to, and also institutions like the Council of Europe and UNESCO and others that help them on how to preserve and strengthen the companies in attempts to preserve freedom of expression.
And so there is already quite a lot around, and I think this is a good addition and also would need to go into more detail about the concrete principles, but there is a lot there. And then one other thing is, again, the A regulation that is floating around in different areas, the Council of Europe has just finished the work of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence and they will probably, the next step will be to negotiate the framework convention on general principles on AI, but then there will be additional instruments, and one largely discussed is the so‑called (?) not just human rights but human rights democracy and rule of law impact assessment, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do, but some elements exist for quite some time. So, there is lots of things going on, and also in my country, we have issued a report about the impact of social media and transparency is the first requirement, it's necessary requirement on the elements that are listed, but how to deal with complaints, what the policy is, how to make redress mechanisms work and so forth, and then the question is transparency enough, probably not, but it's a necessary requirement. And once we have the facts and we also it's important for research and academia to have access to algorithmic uses and that may be a secret for other companies, but the research in academia should have access to how they plan and use algorithms, what is behind it, how it works so that there is a factual basis for policymakers and for society in developing the appropriate regulation or not regulation that goes in a false direction. Thank you very much.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you very much. Interesting points and also already a few questions. I'm sorry to say that the moderator has failed to manage the time of my speakers, but we still have 11 minutes for the discussion, so let's try to do this in a television style with short answers. But I guess, Andrew, that you already have two questions here, at least one is this, what we are mentioning when ‑‑ what are we referring to when we mention the idea this is applying for Internet companies? And I think also in the operationalization work that you are doing, this issue of the records management or the knowledge management of such a big initiative in terms of transparencies is another thing that was underlined. But before you respond to those two, I know that Rachel our online moderator also has questions from the chat. So maybe you can introduce one of the questions that I understand is also for Andrew, Rachel, and then Andrew can take a couple of minutes to respond while we see if we have other questions here from the floor. Over to you, Rachel.
>> RACHEL POLLACK: Thank you Guilherme and to the other speakers. We have a question which I have to say is about four different questions, so maybe I'll try to summarize. The first I think Andrew has begun to answer in the chat. Which are the 26 principles guiding transparency, decision‑making, and due process designed targeted solely at terms of service restrictions or the principle is also intended to touch the process in reporting on removal of content based on notifications from states or public authorities for illegal or harmful content? The question goes on to say while transparency from OSPs is essential, there is also a need for transparency from states on appropriate due process safeguards from which might be different from platforms only from course of resource. And then perhaps to Guilherme has UNESCO undertaken work on this front and goes on to say that there is an example of transparency reporting under DG in Germany that shows almost 95% of illegal content takedowns are restricted based on terms of service. So, to summarize, I think this is about the scope of the principles, is it only in terms of service, is it also transparency from the state, and then whether UNESCO has undertaken work in the area? Thank you.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you. Andrew, over to you.
>> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT: I'm sorry. I just had to locate my mic. Firstly, I think the paper does make clear that we're talking about platforms that provide a means to share and exchange content. So, I mean some people call them social media platforms, but they're more generally any company that deals with managing content is a concern, is within the scope of the principles.
Secondly, in terms of whether it's just applicable to terms of service or would deal with government requests, the UNESCO principles would apply to any ‑‑ to any measure by companies to manage content, whatever the source of that was, whether it was a violation of their terms of service, a government request, or a complaint by a member of the public or users. What I think UNESCO is looking for is for companies to have processes that are consistent with international human rights norms when they deal with that content. Obviously, we recognize that there will be governments who will require illegally imposed restrictions, demand actions by companies that may be in breach of international human rights law, and we would not expect companies in a sense to defy the law. We recognize that they sometimes come under unreasonable pressure to do things that we think would not comply with human rights law.
And the knowledge management question, I didn't fully understand it, I think. But you know could you clarify that for me, Guilherme?
>> GUILHERME CANELA: I think the question is that if we request companies to release these amounts of information that could be released through the 26 principles, are we actually able to process all of that and making some meaningful use of their kind of evidence?
>> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT: Yes. And I actually think our principles are much briefer and more coherent than the existing transparency reports that companies undertake, which are often very detailed and often a little more than a sort of great data dump. What I think is important is transparency is not just about opening up information because information can be opened up and be really incomprehensible. It's about legibility. It's about having a coherent narrative. What the principles are designed to do is to create a narrative for the company to explain how it deals with some of these problems.
Now, clearly for a large company, a Facebook or Google or whatever, they will have a whole team of people who can work on this. The medium‑size companies will be less resourced, and then an SME may have one engineer and a small number of staff. So, we would recognize the applicability of the principles would vary according to the size of the company, and that's an issue that we will address in the course of the operationalization of the principles.
But generally, they're designed to be a simple, accessible, and really no more than a description of the processes that the companies already have in place, so there shouldn't be a significant problem of knowledge management or a significant comprehension problem by the users, and people trying to access the information. It should be very clear and legible.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you, Andrew. We have a question here from the floor. Please introduce yourself.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, there. I'm sorry, more of a comment and less much a question. I wanted to chime in with a different perspective. I'm from the other OFCOM and not the original OFCOM, but I think it's important to highlight that there are ‑‑ the category of independent regulators are sometimes an underappreciated stakeholder in this conversation. This speaks to Andrew's point about legibility, I think it's important also to think of transparency in terms of levels. If you have one level that would be the kind of general or public transparency, everything from reports and blogs to more specific transparency about systems and processes or governance mechanisms, et cetera.
But then I think that there is also an important category of specific or limited transparency, and so for example, OFCOM will soon have new regulatory duties for online services under the UK's Online Safety Act and that will give us the power to serve Internet companies with information requests. So, this is a kind of form of transparency, a form of limited transparency, and you could think about limited transparency to independent researchers or other related groups as potentially a similar category in order for the purposes of validating or corroborating information in public transparency reports.
I also think it's key to note that transparency is just really one component of the evolving regulatory landscape and doesn't exist in a vacuum, so it's always useful to keep in the frame other related initiatives around things like media literacy or things like the use of risk assessments that can both support and be supported by transparency. And then also different things that regulators or other stakeholders can do, so from a regulatory perspective, co‑regulatory outputs like codes of practice or business support mechanisms to try to help the different types of companies, ranging from the biggest of the big to the smallest of the small carry out their operations in a way that will be compliant with the regulation but also hopefully embody the kind of spirit that we would like to see around transparency. Thank you very much.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you so much for this comment and indeed an important remark is for undertaking the job, Andrew mentioned we talked with lots of companies, Civil Society and experts and regulators including OFCOM in the UKOFCOM, and actually during these conversations, these made similar remarks, and if you see one of the principles, it's precisely the transparency about the human rights risk assessment that those companies are making. So, thank you for that, and indeed it is part of this discussion. Thomas, do you want to react to that?
>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: Just a very quick remark, and an encouragement for collaboration with other institutions that are working in the same field. One is another one based in Paris like you, which is the OECD that has started about two years ago after the Christ Church incident actually to work entirely with violent extremist content and they're not developing ‑‑ but they're developing mechanisms for developing and displaying the tools and handout social media deals with these things, and they have like a first template that they just shared at the meeting last week and how they propose, and one of the big issues is this may be easy for the big companies that have hundreds of lawyers to fill out all kinds of bureaucracies forms but it may get more difficult for startups and small social media because they may simply not have the means to ‑‑ if it's done in a too bureaucratic way, so there are some synergies, I guess, that you could use and just to react to the co‑regulatory approach, we're thinking about the same like you have in media, depending on a function of media that you just give some requirements but leave it up to the industry on how they will live up to it before and try to avoid too strict of regulation. Thank you.
>> GUILHERME CANELA: Thank you for the comment. Actually, different stakeholders, I mean Denmark is starting a discussion about transparency as well and OECD and GNI, so we're trying to coordinate but I agree that we need to do more to not reinvent the wheel and create synergies. Unfortunately, we're out of time but we will keep the discussion going actually towards the next World Press Freedom Day that will be globally celebrated in Uruguay next May, and we will have lots of discussions around this issue. Also, regarding the implementation of the Windhoek + 30 that includes media aspects and viability aspects connected to the discussion of information as a public good, common good. So, thank you so much Tawfik, Andrew, Daniele, Akriti, Avri, Thomas, for all of you to be here today and please do interact with UNESCO, with myself, with my team, we are super open and interested to interact with you. Thank you for all much those that have sent more questions in the chat that we couldn't respond to, but sure we can interact on and offline about those issues. Thank you so much, have a wonderful rest of the IGF for all of you.